Skip to content

Habits That Increase Your Risk of Stroke

If you do any of these five things, your risk for stroke is greatly increased, according to experts.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. Every 3.5 minutes, someone dies of stroke." Salman Azhar, MD,  Director, Stroke Program in Neurology at Staten Island University Hospital warns, "With strokes, every second counts. A stroke is a medical emergency that requires prompt treatment." He adds, "Seeking immediate medical attention can help you minimize brain damage and other complications. If you are experiencing symptoms of a stroke, it is best to visit an emergency room with stroke centers, like that at Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH), that are committed to excellence and quality of care and services." While the statistics for strokes is alarming, there are ways to help greatly lower the risk. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.



no smoking sign

Dr. Azhar tells us, "Smoking makes you twice as likely to die if you have a stroke. The more you smoke the greater your risk of stroke. Tobacco smoke has many different effects on the body including thickening the blood, increasing the risk of blood clots and narrowing the arteries, as well as restricting oxygen in the blood."


Sedentary Lifestyle and a Lack of Exercise

overweight woman at home lying on the floor, laptop in front of her, prepared to work out on mat according to video

Dr. Azhar explains, "Being sedentary for 8 or more hours a day will lead to a 4-fold increase in stroke. This is because the lack of exercise leads to increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol all of which are directly tied to stroke."


Drinking Too Much Alcohol

Sad woman drinking wine at kitchen.

According to Dr. Azhar, "Drinking more than 2 drinks a day will lead to a 34% higher risk of stroke.  But drinking even 1-2 drinks a day will significantly increase your risk of both clotting strokes as well as bleeding strokes. Alcohol can increase blood pressure and increase your risk of atrial fibrillation and that leads to clots in the heart that can cause strokes. In addition, heavy drinking can also increase your risk of making your blood not clot properly and that can lead to bleeding in the brain."


Eating Too Much Salt

Man eating pizza having a takeaway at home relaxing resting

Dr. Azhar says, "Eating salty foods or adding salt to your diet may increase your risk of stroke by 2 and a ½ times. This is because besides directly increasing risk of stroke, salt can increase your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure – two risk factors that directly lead to more strokes.  In turn, eating much less salt or using salt substitutes directly reduces the risk of stroke."


Eating Too Much Red Meat

Red meat

Dr. Azhar shares, "Eating too much red meat increases your risk of stroke by 28%.  Red meat is thought to increase inflammation in the blood vessels and heart leading directly to more blood clots and a higher risk of stroke. Eating a Mediterranean diet will in turn help lower your risk of stroke."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
Filed Under